Up one week down the next

It seems like pro and college teams in these parts are never really all bad or all good. They’re up one week and down the next. Looking like champions today until tomorrow comes and they’re bums again.

I guess it’s some consolation that the Packers had their season ended by the eventual NFC Champs, the 49ers but it still doesn’t take the sting away of watching a quarterback runs for as many yards on your defense as Adrian Peterson would. The sad thing is the Packers’ defense was actually better this year statistically and at times even from a visual standpoint until the moment came when they couldn’t get the job done. So yes, more playmakers on defense, especially up front, are needed. But it would help Green Bay if they picked-up a decent running back, either through the draft or free agency, to take the pressure off Aaron Rodgers to continually have to find ways to convert on third down and keep opposing offenses off the field.

No Vikings fans, Joe Webb could not have run the way Colin Kaepernick ran against the Packers’ defense because Joe Webb cannot complete a pass. Kaepernick can and he has receivers like Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis who can catch them. Minnesota actually should feel grateful to get into the playoffs considering how dependent they were on offense to Adrian Peterson’s legs in the pass-happy NFL these days. But it goes to show why having a dependable back-up QB in the pros is usually a good thing. The question of whether Christian Ponder is the “answer” to seemingly eternal Viking quarterback question is really beside the point for right now given the way Peterson dominated the league this past season. Presumably if the Vikings can pick up such a quarterback and another wide receiver in the draft or free agency or if Percy Harvin gets his act together at some point, the Vikings, with their young talent up front on offense and an improved defense, will be in the playoffs again next season. Perhaps even knocking the Packers’ off their NFC North perch.

If it’s true Barry Alvarez backed off in terms of personnel and playing calling in the Rose Bowl, I kind of wished he hadn’t considering the boneheaded “Barge” formation call near the goaline or the fact back-up QB Joel Stave could have used another series or two to try and loosen up Stanford’s defense. Still, as much as another Rose Bowl loss hurts, given how good Stanford is, being in the ballgame until the end is some consolation.  Perhaps the best Alvarez did was providing the stability the team needed to prepare for the game considering the upheaval the program had been sheltered from for so long.

New UW head Gary Andersen notched his first big win yesterday by convincing the state’s top prep player, Alec James from Brookfield East, to stick to his UW commitment, which wasn’t easy to do with Michigan State, Oregon and Brett Bielema and Arkansas trying to change his mind. It’s tough for a new coaching staff of of college football team to come in and start recruiting from scratch thus the best thing Andersen needed to do was to keep the commitments UW already had. So far he’s done an excellent job. National Signing Day is next Wednesday.

Yes the University of Wisconsin’s men’s basketball team does not shoot the ball very well (either on the floor or the line) and will lose their share of games because of it. But the Badgers play defense well and rebound and so long as they do, they will be competitive despite the inexperience of their backourt. Two out of three ain’t bad because UW has gritted out wins shooting poorly (see Minnesota) and there’s always that 50-50 chance each game they will be able to make their shots, which make them very tough to beat.

Minnesota avoided a meltdown to its season by beating Nebraska at home Wednesday and with with several ballgames coming up at Williams Area the Gophers, who are still 16-5 overall despite their .500 Big Ten record, can still make the NCAA Tournament without sweating it out. But this team’s potential will be limited unless they learn how to play half-court basketball, not go into a funk because their opponents don’t play the way they want them to.

The NBA is a players-GM league and coaches are generally cyphers. But it helps to actually have at least a presence on the bench the players either don’t mind playing for or at least respect. Thus coaching has tied into the fortunes of the Bucks and Timberwolves over the past month. Scott Skiles decided to end the charade he was going to be the long-term coach of the Bucks by basically quitting (you couldn’t exactly say he was fired because he’s happy not to be coaching this particular team) and letting popular assistant Jim Boylan run the show. So far so good as the Bucks are ensconsed in the NBA playoff picture and above .500. The Timberwolves by contrast have stumbled without veteran coach Rick Adelman (who caring for his sick wife) and went 2-9 while Terry Porter was running the team. Granted injuries have hurt the T-Wolves this year (no Kevin Love double-doubles and Ricky Rubio trying to do too much coming back from injury) but someone like Adelman could have helped the team avoid losses to the lowly Bobcats and Wizards. The T-Wolves will have to regroup after the all-star break to any chance of salvaging its season.

The Wild are going to have an interesting dilemma now that they’ve survived their early-season lull because they have a lot of young talent down at their minor league franchise in Houston ready and waiting to play in the pros. How they integrate them into the current team and its stars like Parise and Ryan Suter, what lines they play, how they ease out the aging veterans and how the talented youngsters will play once they hit the big time will go a long way to determining the Stanley Cup potential of the team this season.

Minnesota is truly the State of Hockey once again and it’s not just braggadocio. You’ve got the Wild back on the ice of course and one of the top teams in the NHL but also the top two Division I programs in men’s and women’s hockey at the University of Minnesota with the women’s team holding an NCAA record 34-game winning streak. And yet, leading the WCHA on the men’s side is not the Golden Gophers, its St. Cloud State with Minnesota State in fourth place and ranked in the top 20. Indeed, the U and even Wisconsin may find the competition in the WCHA was a lot tougher than it will be in the Big 10 next season.

The Phoenix Coyotes are still owned by the NHL after the latest attempt to find a buyer for the team fell through because, well, he didn’t have enough money at closing time.The comical tale of the Coyotes and the NHL unsuccessful to unload them off their balance sheets (unless of course you’re Jim Balsillie) it really a backdrop for why the NHL lockout happened in the first place. The league was simply trying to once again its buck up its weaker franchises by extracting more from the players. Of course, if the Coyotes were in say, Hamilton, Ontario or Quebec City, they might not be losing $25 million a year but NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will not give up on his insane dream of hockey in the Sunbelt and thus we’ve had two work stoppages as a result.  Yes the Los Angeles Kings did win the Stanley Cup and the LA media still finds a losing, disfunctional Lakers’ squad more interesting than covering the world champions. It’s just not fertile expansion ground and they’re lucky the Kings, Ducks, Stars and Lightning at least have some foothold enough to survive (which wasn’t true for Atlanta and jury is still out on Nashville and Carolina). When Bettman gives up on this is when the NHL will truly have labor peace.

 

 

 

          

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